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From the Spanish Third Division to the Indian Super League: The journey of Pablo Gallardo

Since the global financial crisis started in 2008, more than two million people have left Spain seeking a better life. Many footballers have migrated too. David Silva, Juan Mata or Santi Cazorla have conquered the Premier League, but this piece is not about them. It’s about Pablo Gallardo, a professional player that in 2014 made a decision that eventually would change his life: moving to India to play professionally. “It is the best decision of my life”. He was playing for Burgos (in the Spanish Third Division) at the time. Two years later he won the Indian Super League. This is his amazing journey.

Gallardo (1986) was one of the finest prospects coming out Sevilla academy in 2007. He played more than 70 games in four seasons in the Spanish Second Division before signing for Alaves, one category below. He had a season ending injury early in the preseason and his career was in danger. Gallardo was able to bounce back and after two good years at Badalona and Burgos came up the biggest opportunity of his career, especially in economic terms. “Sporting Club Goa offered me a contract. They watched me in video and my agent got me the deal”.

Undeveloped in tactics

Indian football has nothing to do with European football: “They’re undeveloped in tactics but they’re very strong. The imported players and coaches have to teach the locals the fundamentals of the game. Gallardo explains it with an in-game example: “Sometimes you can see a broken game very early. In India, there are counter attacks that you wouldn’t see in Europe until the final minutes”.

The highest salaries in the world

Carlos Tevez signed a 38 million deal in the Chinese Super League, Oscar will make 24 million this season and Hulk will earn 20. They’re the peak of a growing market full of opportunities not only for world class players, but for football journeymen too. “You can make in three months in the Indian Super League the same you would earn playing two full seasons in the Spanish Second Division”, explains Gallardo. “In the I-League and in Hong Kong the salaries are similar to the Second Division”. After winning the Super League, Gallardo signed with Palencia, a team that is trying to avoid the relegation in the Segunda B, two categories below LaLiga.

The Indian Super League was created by Bollywood actors. World class players such as Forlán, Helder Postiga, Del Piero, Capdevilla or Pires have played in the tournament since it was created in 2014.

Football in Asia is definitely taking off and the potential is huge. China and India are the most populated countries in the world (+ 1.000 M). Thailand is ranked fourth. And they love football. “In Kochi, 55.000 people are inside the stadium ninety minutes before the kickoff. It’s an amazing environment for the players”.

Hiring European coaches/players

Nowadays, their wealthiness and passion is far away from their structure. They need experienced coaches able to implement a development program for the academies all across the country. Many Indian I-League players barely would make it to the Third Division in Spain or England. “The clubs are hiring Spanish/European coaches. It’s a good opportunity for young professionals who are trying to standout”, explains Gallardo. Their duty is not only raising the bar, but teaching the football philosophy too. “You help the local player and your team to learn how to control the pace of the game and stuff like that”.

Gallardo’s decision of moving to Asia definitely boosted his professional career. It also allowed him to grow as a human being. Alongside his girlfriend Tamara, who joined him since his very first football trip, the Spaniard witnessed in India the flip side of capitalism. “The middle class doesn’t exist in India. There are a lot of people that don’t have much, but they are happy. I learnt in India that the most of our ‘problems’ are meaningless”.

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